100 stranded residents of Rincon Road beg for a bridge

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A pickup truck crosses one of the rivers at Texas Trace, Rincon Road, Las Cuevas on July 13. Photo by Roger Jacob

A close-knit community of around 100 people who live and farm off Rincon Road, Las Cuevas is cut off from the rest of the country whenever it rains heavily.

Picturesque with lush green trees, wild coffee, clear waters, friendly dogs and welcoming people, residents of Texas Trace say they find themselves stranded in their homes or outdoors after torrential rains that sometimes flood the river more than three meters away.

They say they’re stuck between three and four hours, but it could be longer. It was their experience on Friday after thunderstorms inundated most of the country. Their plight has gone unresolved by politicians for over two decades.

Texas Trace departs from Rincon Road in Las Cuevas, about two miles before the iconic Las Cuevas Bay. It is the main access route to Trinidad’s third highest waterfall, Habio Falls.

A difficult hike, but one that attracts tourists from all over the world and they too are left behind whenever the river is in flood.

To access Rincon Road, residents must cross the confluence of four rivers – the Rincon, Texas, Little Texas, and Blue Basin Rivers – on foot or by four-wheel drive vehicle when the rivers are low with a depth of 14 inches. During the rainy season, travel is restricted.

To cross on foot or by vehicle, the villagers piled up more than 60 sandbags at the main crossroads. To go to the other side.

The flowing river, however, constantly erodes the sandbags which need frequent repairs.

Nelson Noreiga-Gooding, one of the outspoken villagers, at Texas Trace, Rincon Road, Las Cuevas advocates for his community. Photo by Roger Jacob

For the 25 families making the journey along the unpaved road to the main road, all they want is a bridge to get home safely and bring their produce to market.

Over the years, District Local Government Councilor Sudhir Sagramsingh said he had provided as much help as possible.

Sagramsingh said communities such as Texas Trace are quite small and there are many similar communities in the Maracas Bay/Santa Cruz/La Fillette district he serves that face similar infrastructure shortcomings.

The Suziki jeep, driven by Shazam Ali, that villagers depend on to cross the river in an emergency. Photo by Roger Jacob

In San Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation, there are 170,000 people and resources are stretched and cannot accommodate everyone with experience in the Texas Trace community, he said.

“There are no fixed plans for a bridge going forward,” Sagramsingh said. He said that since the road and the river intertwine in many places, he has made efforts to ensure that the waterway is frequently cleared and that equipment, such as sandbags, is provided to help residents to cross the river.

Sagramsingh advised residents to seek help through the National Self-Help Commission to get materials to build a bridge and they can provide the labor. He said the company would be willing to lend its equipment for the project.

The councilor said he was ready to write a letter to support their initiative, but the corporation’s lack of funds does not allow him to do much more.

When asked if the temporary Bailey Bridge could be used, Sagramsingh said, the company had made requests for assistance from the Department of Public Works. He says “no community is intentionally left behind” but with limited funds it is the best that can be done.

Contacted for comment, St Ann’s East MP Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said on Thursday the plight of the residents had been referred to the Department of Rural Development and Local Government and that she would ‘continue to liaise with the ministry to keep it front and center”.

Told the community was cut off after the river flooded with more than three meters of water on Friday, Gadsby-Dolly, in a text message, said the matter had been “reported to rural development for action”.

A group of villagers from Texas Trace, Rincon Road, Las Cuevas plead for the state to help them build a bridge to and from their homes. Photo by Roger Jacob

Rural Development Minister Faris Al-Rawi did not respond to calls and text messages requesting a response.

During a visit to the community on Wednesday, residents gathered by the river to ask for help through this newspaper.

Most of the inhabitants are farmers and a baker also plies his trade along the main eastern road.

Texas Trace children often miss school when it rains. To go to school, “you can’t dress at home”, says Lennon Forde, “they have to walk with their uniforms and their shoes in their hands, because they can’t pass”.

Forde, a fire officer assigned to Woodbrook Station, says he, too, has to hold his uniform above water to sometimes cross the river to get to work.

“MPs are only here for election time,” Forde said. Another resident recalled that Gadsby-Dolly drove into the community unannounced, after the police jeep got stuck in the river last July and videos of the incident surfaced on the streets. social networks.

Some of the 15 children who live in the community often have to spend nights with relatives or neighbors across the river to get to school in time for crucial exams.

Another neighbour, Nelson Noreiga-Gooding, said the pandemic has made the struggle for students worse as internet service there was weak, if online at all and often unable to connect to online classes.

Farmers say they have been disadvantaged for much longer. Agriculture is the main industry in this region where crops such as cabbage, melongene, cucumber, peppers, chadon beni, bananas, breadfruit, chestnut, coconuts are abundant.

Farmers have become accustomed to flooding in the community and expect crop losses each year. They sometimes have to carry sacks of their crops across the flooded river to get to market in time.

Another farmer, Peter Noreiga, says he has to pay double to get his goods to market. One payment is made to get his wares out of his garden across the river to Rincon Road and another at the market.

A submerged tire used by villagers to help them cross one of the rivers at Texas Trace, Rincon Road, Las Cuevas. Photo by Roger Jacob

“When you have to pay for double haul at the time you reach the market, you can’t charge extra.”

As a farmer registered with the Ministry of Agriculture, he said ministry officials visited in March and he hoped they would continue building a bridge.

Villagers often park their cars on Rincon Road during the day but move them to neighbors across the river at night for safety reasons.

They described their community as safe, with no history of violence, drug dealing or theft. They insist that any drug-related crime in the Las Cuevas area is limited to the beach district. This was confirmed by police from the Maracas police station.

They said maxi-loads of visitors frequented the waterfalls and Blackpool, but vehicles could not venture beyond the river. Forde says hikers can get trapped whenever there is heavy rain.

When hikers are lost or injured, neither fire trucks nor ambulances can reach them, residents said.

An army truck was able to cross during the last emergency hike and residents have to rely on the only villager with a Suzuki jeep who lives in the last house in the community during an emergency to get out.

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